The word “agnostic” was coined by the 19th-century British scientist Thomas H. Huxley, who believed that only material phenomena were objects of exact knowledge. He made up the word from the prefix a-, meaning “without, not,” as in amoral, and the noun Gnostic. Gnostic is related to the Greek word gnsis, “knowledge,” which was used by early Christian writers to mean “higher, esoteric knowledge of spiritual things”; hence, Gnostic referred to those with such knowledge (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009).
Therefore, an agnostic is someone who feels that knowledge of a Supreme Being, ultimate cause, etc., is impossible, because that knowledge is outside the realm of observable evidence. Another definition, perhaps more clear: a person who claims that they cannot have true knowledge about the existence of God (but does not deny that God might exist).
The Collins Thesaurus gives some equivalent nouns — sceptic, cynic, scoffer, doubter, disbeliever, unbeliever, doubting Thomas; and some equivalent adjectives — sceptical, questioning, doubting, cynical, doubtful, scoffing, unconvinced, disbelieving, incredulous, quizzical, mistrustful, and unbelieving.
There are No Atheists in Foxholes
This statement has been most often attributed to journalist Ernie Pyle, and it means that in times of extreme duress, such as when a soldier is barely protected in a “foxhole,” (or hole dug in the ground for protection) while war rages just above his head, he will surely call on a higher power for help, even if he has never before prayed in his life.
Some might say that being agnostic is a luxury — when everything is going fine, and we feel powerful enough to make our own way and solve our own problems, we feel no need to find out whether God exists. It is when we are absolutely powerless and at the end of our wits that we call out for help.
This shows that is our nature, when in extremity, to call upon God, even if we never have thought about His existence. This is not the same thing as inventing religion to explain events of nature, or to use as a crutch throughout our lives. It is both visceral and natural, because there is a God, and we were born knowing that.
This website will investigate agnosticism, belief, and observable proofs that God exists. We welcome your sincere comments and questions.
*Many of these articles have been adapted from a series of letters written by Dr. Larry Jensen to his nephew, Jon.